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Study: Stress relief may be key to conceiving

stress relief
New research shows stress-reduction programs, such as deep relaxation and anger management, may help women concieve  
October 10, 1998
Web posted at: 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland

BOSTON (CNN) - You've heard the old adage for couples trying to conceive a child: Just relax and you'll get pregnant. Now there seems to be scientific proof to back up that notion.

For 6 years, Valerie Gottozzi Mei and her husband tried to have a baby.

"It's on your mind 24 hours a day and it's something you try to put aside and you just can't," she said. "You dwell on it; it becomes an obsession."

After seeing a number of fertility specialists, Mei heard about the Mind/Body Institute at the Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston that uses a variety of mind/body exercises such as deep relaxation, guided imagery and anger management, to help infertile women cope with their depression and anxiety.

CNN's Rhonda Rowland reports on stress and pregnancy
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"Women who came into the program were very depressed and very anxious, and very angry and their marriages were in trouble - and all sorts of turmoil," said researcher Alice Domar of the Mind/Body Medical Institute. "Within 10 weeks, they were feeling better, a lot better."

Domar said she noticed that as the women in the program became less stressed, pregnancies occurred.

"For years and years and years we saw these pregnancies and we had no idea if they were higher pregnancy rates from our program or if those were just to be expected -- a coincidence."

Her study, funded by the National Institute on Mental Health, followed almost 200 women who had been trying to conceive for one to two years.

Valerie Gottozzi Mei used both the mind/body program and in vitro fertilization to become pregnant  

It found that after one year, women who were in either a support group or the mind/body program had nearly triple the pregnancy rate of women who had no psychological intervention.

The research was presented this week at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting in San Francisco.

"In most cases, the mind/body approach was not enough by itself to achieve pregnancy. Most of the women in the study got pregnant by combining the behavioral approach along with traditional infertility treatment.

For Mei, after participating in Domar's mind/body program, she underwent in vitro fertilization to become pregnant.

Still, this study alone may not be enough to convince infertility clinics to adopt the mind/body program.

"I think all of the numbers are very small to be able to reach conclusions that are going to take us very far," said Dr. Carlane Elsner of Reproductive Biology Associates. "But I think the important thing about this study is somebody's looking at it."

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